Chapter 1:7 – Wisdom
The fear of the Lord is the beginning [margin: principal part] of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The preface has stated the object of this Book of Wisdom. The book itself now opens with a noble sentence. “There is not,” as Bishop Patrick observes, “such a wise instruction to be found in all their books [speaking of Heathen ethics], as the very first of all in Solomon’s, which he lays as the ground of all wisdom.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. So Job had pronounced before (Job 28:28). So had the wise man’s father (Psa 111:10). Such is the weight of this saying, that Solomon again repeats it (Pro 9:10). Nay, after having gone round the whole circuit, after having weighed exactly all the sources of knowledge, his conclusion of the whole matter is this: that the fear of God in its practical exercise “is the whole of man” (Ecc 12:13; cp.2 Job 28:12-14, with 28) — all his duty, all his happiness, his first lesson and his last. Thus, when about to instruct us from the mouth of God, he begins at the beginning, the principal part. All heathen wisdom is but folly. Of all knowledge, the knowledge of God is the principal. There is no true knowledge without godliness (cp. Deu 4:6, 7).
But what is this fear of the Lord? It is that affectionate reverence, by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law. His wrath is so bitter, and his love so sweet; that hence springs an earnest desire to please him, and — because of the danger of coming short from his own weakness and temptations—a holy watchfulness and fear, “that he might not sin against Him” (Heb 12:28, 29). This enters into every exercise of the mind, every object of life (Pro 23:17). The oldest proficient in the Divine school seeks a more complete molding into its spirit. The godly parent trains up his family under its influence (Gen 18:19; Eph 6:4). The Christian scholar honors it as the beginning, the head, of all his knowledge; at once sanctifying its end, and preserving him from its most subtle temptations.