Letters Addressed to Relatives and Friends
Chiefly in Reply to Arguments in Support of the Doctrine of the Trinity
by Mary Dana, Boston, 1845
by Barbara Buzzard
I find it significant that the first copy of this book we came upon had the word “Discarded” stamped inside its front cover. Ironically, I find it a pearl of great price. I am made to remember that “that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). Clearly, that which is detested by men is often beautiful in God's sight.
This is an unforgettable book — at least I have found it so — due I think to the combination of the writer’s evident hunger for truth and her very great esteem and regard for her father who was of the opposite viewpoint. The letters describe Mary’s journey from a loyal and devout clergyman’s daughter to an astute apologist for the unitarian faith and one who, after a most fervent inquiry after truth, courageously embraced it. Please bear in mind that Mary’s use of “Unitarian” connoted a biblical unitarian stance and not the Unitarian Universalist position that we find today.
Allow yourself to be moved by the words of Mary Dana some 160 years later:
“The days of torture, fire and the sword, have, happily, almost entirely passed away. He who changes his religious opinions has not now, in Protestant countries at least, to fear the strong arm of ecclesiastical power, nor the civil law; no Inquisition holds over our heads its rod of terror; no dungeons open to receive us...But is there not a kind of persecution still enacted, which, though less extreme and violent, is quite as onerous, and no less difficult to bear?
“The days of proscription, slander, insult, and neglect have by no means passed away. Cold greetings, averted looks, long and intimate friendships sundered in a moment, tell a mournful tale in respect to the toleration really exercised in this country, so proud of its civil and religious liberty, towards those who have conscientiously changed their opinions. Nor are these the only methods by which the spirit of unyielding intolerance is developed. Injurious suspicions; direct charges which would almost break the heart of the sufferer, did he not feel himself above their reach; the imputation of any and every motive but the real one; all these must be experienced and endured by the one who feels it his duty to leave the ranks of the popular or orthodox theology...and candidly avow his honest opinions...And when I look around me and observe how the great majority of mankind are blindly following the lead of others, how few there are who think for themselves, how few are willing to test their religious opinions by comparing them with other systems of faith, by bringing them all to ‘the law and the testimony’ of God’s inspired word, clinging firmly to truth, following it wherever it might lead, and boldly rejecting error...I ought not, perhaps, to be surprised at the spirit which is manifested.”
She then writes these words to her “kind and venerated parents”:
“It has become my solemn duty to make you an announcement, which, I fear, will fill your hearts with sorrow. Would to God that I could save you from the pain, which, from my knowledge of your views and feelings, I am sure awaits you; but I believe, as God is my judge, that truth is dearer to me than life itself, and I dare no longer disavow the sentiments, which, after thorough, and honest, and prayerful deliberation, I have at length adopted.
“I will keep you no longer in suspense, but will proceed to declare that I do not now believe that my blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the Supreme God. I believe that there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things. I believe that ‘all power’ was given unto him in Heaven and on earth; that he was the Messiah predicted by the Old Testament writers, who, in the fullness of time, came into the world with a commission from God, and full power and authority to do the work which God gave him to do. In other words, after long and earnest deliberation, much diligent study of the Holy Scriptures, and fervent prayer to God for the assistance of his spirit, I conscientiously and firmly reject the doctrine of the Trinity.”
You will see why I found it necessary to quote extensively from her work — the beauty of the writing is not to be missed. Mary Dana wishes to show her reasons, her evidence, her rationale and her agonizing due to the sure hurt brought to her parents. We all need heroes and heroines. She is surely one of mine. She tells us that she had always found the doctrine of the Trinity so perplexing that she read over and over again all the arguments in its favor, and she candidly says that no one can ever know how she struggled to continue as a Trinitarian, seeing the Trinity as a contradiction in itself.