"Thou Art the Man"

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The court-house was packed. The occasion was the trial of one, William Freeman, charged with the murders of the Van Ness Family in the vicinity of Auburn.
He confessed to the crime but showed no signs of regret. On the contrary, he freely described all the details of the murders, and laughed continually during his recital.
The District Attorney arraigned the prisoner on the several indictments for murder.
Freeman's appearance was said to be that of a man deaf, stupid and unable to speak connectedly or to any sensible purpose. He had a foolish look on his face, and apparently was ignorant or indifferent of his own situation.
To the questions:
"Have you any counsel?" the accused replied:
"I don't know."
"Who is your counsel?"
"I don't know."
The judge asked the usual question:
"Will anyone defend this man?"
A death-like hush fell upon the audience, which was broken when Mr. Seward (later Governor of New York State), rose and said: "May it please the court, I shall remain counsel for the accused until his death."
Seward had studied the case and become convinced that the prisoner was hopelessly demented.
The plea of the defense was insanity. Among the witnesses was the eminent alienist, Dr. Brigham.
Under his direct examination Dr. Brigham described in great detail the signs and symptoms of dementia and gave his reasons for concluding that Freeman's was a special form of insanity.
With passive countenance and in the most quiet, self-possessed manner the witness answered all the questions of the Attorney General without betraying the slightest irritation as his method of diagnosis was held up to ridicule. The climax was reached when the Attorney General exclaimed with startling emphasis: "What! Do you affirm that you can diagnose insanity at sight?"
"I do," was the calm but emphatic response. Turning towards the jury the Attorney General demanded of Dr. Brigham: "Point out to the court and jury an insane person!"
The challenge was accepted.
It is almost impossible to describe the scene which followed. A breathless silence fell upon the court-room.
The venerable Judge raised his glasses to his forehead and surveyed the excited mass of people about to undergo an examination as to their sanity!
The large number of lawyers within the bar stood up and gazed at the crowded hall and passage ways with intense curiosity.
The spectators were awe-struck when they realized that the crucial test was to be applied to them. I still feel the thrill of horror I experienced.
Dr. Brigham arose from his chair and stood for a moment surveying the people, as if to decide where to begin his scrutiny.
He was white and motionless. Turning slowly to the first tier of seats, he began a deliberate survey of the spectators, scanning the features of each with apparent confidence that he could detect the faintest trace of insanity.
As his keen, searching eyes glanced from tier to tier of seats, the suspense became almost unendurable. He had reached the middle aisle and yet no one had been pointed out as insane. Five hundred faces had been scrutinized.
An incredulous smile lit up the features of the Attorney General, while a greater earnestness of manner and intensity of scrutiny were apparent in the witness. Deep furrows appeared on his pallid face, and his eyes assumed a piercing brilliancy from which every subject shrank.
A sigh of relief followed along the rows of seats as the eyes of the great expert swept over them. The area of faces yet to be examined was rapidly diminishing, and but one-quarter of the audience remained to be scanned.
It was apparent that thus far either there was no insane person in the crowd, or if there was, the witness had failed to detect him.
But suddenly the penetrating eyes of the expert became fixed. His features relaxed. It was evident that he had discovered the object of his search.
Stretching out his long arm and pointing with his finger toward a person on one of the rear tiers of seats, he quietly said: "There is an insane man."
At that instant, the man, as if struck with a bullet, sprang from his seat. Wildly gestulating and shouting a volley of oaths against anyone who would call him insane, he rushed down the aisle towards the bar.
The Judge rose hastily from his chair, as if about to escape. The lawyers were panic-stricken and mingled with the crowd. But Dr. Brigham stood perfectly self-possessed, while the officers struggled with the lunatic in their efforts to remove him from the court-room. The great alienist had proved his point to the satisfaction of both judge and jury.
The insane person is unconscious of his insanity; the unsaved soul is usually likewise unconscious of its ruin. The all-seeing eye of God sweeping over companies of faces, be they many or few, at once detects the individual whose heart has never been opened to believe the gospel. His eyes are as a flame of fire. (Rev. 1:1414His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; (Revelation 1:14)) It is the Word of God that discloses to the sinner his awful state and danger„ and the voice of the Son of God (John 5:2525Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (John 5:25)) reaching his dead soul declares: "Thou art the man."
"But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. 5:88But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).