Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Vermont Bar Journal, Fall 2017, Vol. 48, No. 3 - Page 17

culiar privileges of the whole visible church of christ on earth ! May God have mercy on him, that his spirit may be saved in the day www.vtbar.org of the Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN.” 31 Bethiah Holton Bethiah Holton had a spiritual experi- ence. After reading her Bible and mature- ly deliberating on what she read she came to believe in universal salvation. Everyone would be saved, not just those who were good Christians. She then wrote a letter to the Church of Christ at Westminster, of which she was a member, saying: “I firmly believe, that all mankind will finally be restored to the divine favour through the suffering, death and atone- ment of Christ. And I should desire you to consider the character given of Christ, in john iv, 14, we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the sav- iour of the world, that is, all mankind. The language of scripture in this, and almost in- numerable other passages, is that he tast- ed death for every man, that the benefits he has obtained extend as far as the effects of Adam’s fall, and that by his obedience the free gift came upon all men to justifica- tion of life.” The congregation reacted strongly to this statement of faith, which leading members regarded as heresy. The church formal- ly voted to admonish her to abandon this thinking, but shortly after this, Mrs. Holton “admonished them to beware how they walked, and to be careful by their virtuous THE VERMONT BAR JOURNAL • FALL 2017 examples, to lead others to the practice of the same virtues.” Now she had gone too far, adding insult to heretical thinking, and something must be done. A meeting was called for May 17, 1795, for the purpose of voting to deny her the privileges of church membership, which in 1795 was a serious loss of attachment to the community. She asked two friends to represent her at the meeting, both lawyers, one of them a member of the Vermont Su- preme Court. Lot Hall was in the second of seven terms on the court. Although he lived in Westminster, he was not a mem- ber of that church. After Judge Hall was in- troduced, another member objected to his appearance in part because he had been educated in the profession of the law. The congregation agreed, and voted to pre- vent him from speaking in her defense. The trial proceeded. Many members of the congregation stood to express their disapprobation of Mrs. Holton’s conduct. Finally, near the end of the discussion, Judge Hall could stand it no more and he stood up, saying: “Mr. Moderator, although I am not a member of this body, and consequently can claim no right on that accord, and not- withstanding that I am debarred by a pre- vious vote of yours, on this occasion, from uttering a word on behalf of the distressed woman before you I am compelled by the call of humanity to defend a worthy, dis- consequences of which would be “insub- ordination, contempt for the institution of marriage, mutual distrust, deception of ev- ery kind, intemperate drinking, loathsome disease, spurious progeny, murderous arti- f ices to prevent propagation, subversion of all government and social happiness, and introduction of complete weakness.” 29 Dr. Pettingill explained the consequenc- es of his refusal. “Should you continue ob- stinate, and consequently receive the sen- tence of excommunication, you will be de- barred from the privileges of the whole visible church on earth, and ranked with hypocrites and unbelievers; we can no lon- ger extend to you those tokens of friend- ship, we owe to the rest of the world; and you must lie under the displeasure of Him, by whose authority we act.” 30 The Rupert process took more than a year, allowing the young man all that time to change his mind, but apparently he never did. Six months later, Dr. Pettingill issued “The Form of Excommunication,” which was read to the brethren of the church, as they stood to hear the final verdict. Be- cause he “is guilty of the irregularities al- ready noticed, and continues perverse, notwithstanding all the means we could use to reclaim him, we do now pronounce him excommunicated ! debarred from all the pe - 17