“The hoary head is a crown of glory—if it is found in the way of righteousness.” “You shall rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear before the Lord your God.”
Such are the express precepts of scripture. So reasonable in itself, and so clearly commanded by God, is reverence from the young to the aged, it may be fairly said, that the young person who fails in so obvious a duty is a stranger to the fear of God, and destitute of those dispositions which alone can render youth amiable, manhood virtuous, and old age honorable.
1. Honor the aged—because God has put an especial honor upon old age; and to treat old people with respect, to study their comfort, and tenderly to soothe their infirmities, is an act of obedience to God.
2. Honor the aged—because they have generally a claim on your gratitude. Perhaps some feeble, decrepit old person, whom the thoughtless youth may be inclined to ridicule and despise, has, in days that are past, nurtured his infancy, or rescued his heedless steps from danger, or administered a medicine that was the means of saving his life, or in some way or other been instrumental in giving him a good education, or introducing him to some advantage in society, which he now enjoys.
3. Honor the aged—because the time was when they were as blooming and lively and active as yourselves; and if you live to old age, you will probably be as feeble and decrepit as they; and then, how can you expect sympathy, kindness, and respect, if in your youth you have not shown them to others?
4. Honor the aged—because outward infirmities do not necessarily enfeeble the mind, and much valuable instruction may often be derived from people laboring under the weakness and sufferings of old age. “Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.” “Ask now your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they shall teach you.” Young people might find it greatly to their advantage to listen to the experience of the aged, and to treasure up and improve their observations; to ask, and to attend to their counsels, rather than to follow the dictates of their own ignorance and self-conceit. But it is only a respectful, soothing deportment on the part of the young, which can invite the aged to bring forth the rich stores of their experience. Wise is the youth who never allows such an opportunity to pass unimproved.
5. Honor the aged, because a disposition in youth to give due honor to age, is one of the fairest indications of general excellence of character; and a particular blessing is often seen to rest upon those who have treated the aged with conscientious respect. On the other hand, the youth who can despise and ridicule the aged, gives sad evidence of a generally wicked and depraved disposition. He often becomes a tyrant in his family, a quarrelsome neighbor, and a despiser of religion! And many instances are on record (besides that of the children of Bethel, who mocked the prophet Elisha) in which the divine displeasure has evidently rested on those who refused the honor due to old age.
Gorham Abbott, The Family At Home