You shall rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.
Let us consider the motives for honouring "the hoary head," as they are deprived from the principles and connected with the duties of Christianity. But we must remember it is not merely to age that this reverence is due, but to the hoary head only "when it is found in the way of righteousness." From its very nature this must be one of the relative duties of the young, and its obligations are founded on the genuine sentiments of the heart, on the deductions of reason, as well as the precepts of religion, and on the peculiar advantages resulting from it. The gospel of Christ strongly inculcates the principles of general deference and humility. "In lowliness of mind," says the apostle, "let each esteem other better than himself," and to the exhortation of being "kindly affectioned towards our fellow-creatures," is added the precept of "preferring one another in honour." The young, considered in their relation to the aged, have many additional reasons for showing this deference and honour; and farther, the sentiments of reverence should be accompanied with tenderness and affection. It is to them that the young are to look for superior knowledge, and, in general, superior virtue. They have enjoyed the benefits of experience, as well as reflection, and are therefore qualified to be our monitors and guides. The claims to deference arising from the distinctions of birth and fortune, when compared to these, are trifling and inconsiderable. If reverence be due from one human being to another it can never be offered with more propriety than as the price of knowledge from the ignorant to the wise. The aged may be considered, in this respect, as oracles that speak to the serious and the well-disposed with such conviction as they can nowhere find but in their own experience. They are a sort of living chronicles, that impress the memory and imagination with all the energy of truth. Let us consider them as having husbanded and improved the talent well, which we perhaps shall squander away, and as preparing, with humble confidence, to "enter into the joy of their Lord." But let me observe that these observations relate only to "the hoary head," when crowned with wisdom, virtue, and piety. Viewed in this light, the aged cannot but impress us with the deepest sense of reverence and honour. They have encountered difficulties and temptations, in which we perhaps shall be enthralled, and can point out to us the means by which they escaped. They have been exposed to trials from which our fortitude would shrink with terror, and have mortified those evil dispositions of nature which might be preparing for us disappointment, misery, and guilt. To the hero who has retired from the field, crowned with the wreath of fame, men look up with admiration and applause; and shall we withhold our reverence from Him who has fought the good fight of "Christian faith," and obtained a victory over the temptations of the world? But as every human being is subject to sin, we should be careful, in all the examples that are set before us, to avoid the evil and to imitate the good. In short, let us joyfully embrace every means in our power of improving that inestimable talent which is entrusted to our care, and by which alone we can "grow wise unto salvation."
(J. Hewlett, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.