Verses 1–6

We, in this dark and depressed world, know but little of the world of light and exaltation, and, conversing within narrow confines, can scarcely admit any tolerable conceptions of the vast regions above. But this we know,

I. That there is above us a world of blessed angels by whom God is praised, an innumerable company of them. Thousand thousands minister unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before him; and it is his glory that he has such attendants, but much more his glory that he neither needs them, nor is, nor can be, any way benefited by them. To that bright and happy world the psalmist has an eye here, Ps. 148:1, 2. In general, to the heavens, to the heights. The heavens are the heights, and therefore we must lift up our souls above the world unto God in the heavens, and on things above we must set our affections. It is his desire that God may be praised from the heavens, that thence a praising frame may be transmitted to this world in which we live, that while we are so cold, and low, and flat, in praising God, there are those above who are doing it in a better manner, and that while we are so often interrupted in this work they rest not day nor night from it. In particular, he had an eye to God’s angels, to his hosts, and calls upon them to praise God. That God’s angels are his hosts is plain enough; as soon as they were made they were enlisted, armed, and disciplined; he employs them in fighting his battles, and they keep ranks, and know their place, and observe the word of command as his hosts. But what is meant by the psalmist’s calling upon them, and exciting them to praise God, is not so easy to account for. I will not say, They do not heed it, because we find that to the principalities and powers is known by the church the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10); but I will say, They do not need it, for they are continually praising God and there is no deficiency at all in their performances; and therefore when, in singing this psalm, we call upon the angels to praise God (as we did, Ps. 103:20), we mean that we desire God may be praised by the ablest hands and in the best manner,—that we are pleased to think he is so,—that we have a spiritual communion with those that dwell in his house above and are still praising him,—and that we have come by faith, and hope, and holy love, to the innumerable company of angels, Heb. 12:22.

II. That there is above us not only an assembly of blessed spirits, but a system of vast bodies too, and those bright ones, in which God is praised, that is, which may give us occasion (as far as we know any thing of them) to give to God the glory not only of their being, but of their beneficence to mankind. Observe,

1. What these creatures are that thus show us the way in praising God, and, whenever we look up and consider the heavens, furnish us with matter for his praises. (1.) There are the sun, moon, and stars, which continually, either day or night, present themselves to our view, as looking-glasses, in which we may see a faint shadow (for so I must call it, not a resemblance) of the glory of him that is the Father of lights, Ps. 148:3. The greater lights, the sun and moon, are not too great, too bright, to praise him; and the praises of the less lights, the stars, shall not be slighted. Idolaters made the sun, moon, and stars, their gods, and praised them, worshipping and serving the creature, because it is seen, more than the Creator, because he is not seen; but we, who worship the true God only, make them our fellow-worshippers, and call upon them to praise him with us, nay, as Levites to attend us, who, as priests, offer this spiritual sacrifice. (2.) There are the heavens of heavens above the sun and stars, the seat of the blessed; from the vastness and brightness of these unknown orbs abundance of glory redounds to God, for the heavens of heavens are the Lord’s (Ps. 115:16) and yet they cannot contain him, 1 Kgs. 8:27. The learned Dr. Hammond understands her, by the heavens of heavens, the upper regions of the air, or all the regions of it, as Ps. 68:33. We read of the heaven of heavens, whence God sends forth his voice, and that a mighty voice, meaning the thunder. (3.) There are the waters that are above the heavens, the clouds that hang above in the air, where they are reserved against the day of battle and war, Job 38:23. We have reason to praise God, not only that these waters do not drown the earth, but that they do water it and make it fruitful. The Chaldee paraphrase reads it, Praise him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters that depend on the word of him who is above the heavens, for the key of the clouds is one of the keys which God has in his hand, wherewith he opens and none can shut, he shuts and none can open.

2. Upon what account we are to give God the glory of them: Let them praise the name of the Lord, that is, let us praise the name of the Lord for them, and observe what constant and fresh matter for praise may be fetched from them. (1.) Because he made them, gave them their powers and assigned them their places: He commanded them (great as they are) out of nothing, and they were created at a word’s speaking. God created, and therefore may command; for he commanded, and so created; his authority must always be acknowledged and acquiesced in, because he once spoke with such authority. (2.) Because he still upholds and preserves them in their beings and posts, their powers and motions (Ps. 148:6): He hath established them for ever and ever, that is, to the end of time, a short ever, but it is their ever; they shall last as long as there is occasion for them. He hath made a decree, the law of creation, which shall not pass; it was enacted by the wisdom of God, and therefore needs not be altered, by his sovereignty and inviolable fidelity, and therefore cannot be altered. All the creatures that praised God at first for their creation must praise him still for their continuance. And we have reason to praise him that they are kept within the bounds of a decree; for to that it is owing that the waters above the heavens have not a second time drowned the earth.