"HOW PLEASING TO BEHOLD AND SEE"
"…How pleasant it is…to dwell together in unity" (Ps. 133.1)
INTRO.: A song which expresses the pleasantness of brethren dwelling together in unity is "How Pleasing to Behold and See." The text was written by John Dobell, who was born in 1757, at Poole in Dorset, England, and became a port gauger under the Board of Excise at Poole. Reputed to be tall and spare physically, he was a member of the Dissenting Chapel in Skinner St. In 1806 he published A New Selection of Seven Hundred Evangelical Hymns for Private, Family, and Public Worship (Many Original) from More Than Two Hundred of the Best Authors in England, Scotland, Ireland, and America, Arranged in Alphabetical Order, Intended as a Supplement to Dr. Watts’s Psalms and Hymns, which included several hymns of his own. This book was among the first to include the names of the authors with their hymns. This hymn probably first appeared in it. Another hymn from Dobell’s Selection, though not by Dobell himself, that has appeared in some of our books is "Welcome, Delightful Morn," attributed to Thomas Hayward. Some time later, this Selection was increased to "More than Eight Hundred" hymns. In addition to a work entitled Baptism in 1807 and another entitled Humanity in 1812, Dobell also published two volumes called The Christian’s Golden Treasure; or, Gospel Comfort for Doubting Minds in 1823.
Dobell died at the age of 84 in May or June of 1840, at Poole. Very few of Dobell’s own hymns are found in modern hymnbooks. Some three, out of about twenty or more, were in common use in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but even these are now largely forgotten. John Julian noted, "It is not as a hymn-writer, but as a diligent and successful hymnologist, that J. Dobell is best known." The tune (Hebron) to which this song has usually been set was composed by Lowell Mason (1792-1872). It is dated 1830. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson. The same tune has been used with "Jesus, And Shall It Ever Be" by Joseph Grigg in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; and today may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
Dobell’s song encourages us to have the attitude that is necessary for unity among God’s people.
I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the need to agree
"How pleasing to behold and see The friends of Jesus all agree–
To sit around the sacred board As members of one common Lord."
A. The friends of Jesus are those who truly obey His commandments: Jn. 15.14
B. God wishes that His people would agree and that there be no divisions among them: 1 Cor. 1.10
C. The reason is that the saved are members of one common Lord:
II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the need to trust in the Savior’s grace and blood
"Here we behold the dawn of bliss, Here we behold the Savior’s grace;
Here we behold His precious blood, Which sweetly pleads for us with God."
A. The "dawn of bliss" probably refers to the beginning of "the unity of the Spirit" which we are to maintain: Eph. 4.1
B. We can maintain that unity by focusing on the Savior’s grace which makes it possible: Acts 15.11
C. We must also center our minds on the Savior’s blood by which we have redemption: Eph. 1.7
III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the need to promote brotherly love
"While here we sit we would implore That love may spread from shore to shore,
Till all the saints, with us, combine To praise the Lord in songs divine."
A. Whenever we are together, we should implore the Lord, or pray, for the spread of the gospel: Eph. 6.21-23
B. We should also pray that as the gospel spreads, so will spread the love that Jesus commanded that we have for one another: Jn. 13.34-35
C. When this prayer is answered, the result will be that saints from shore to shore will combine their voices to praise the Lord in songs divine: Eph. 5.19, Col. 3.16
IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes the need to give fellowship to all saints
"To all we freely give our hand, Who love the Lord in every land;
For all are one in Christ our Head, To whom be endless honors paid."
A. To "give our hand" implies a recognition of fellowship: Gal. 2.9
B. This right hand of fellowship should be given to all "who love the Lord in every land," again, understanding that those who truly love the Lord are those who keep His commandments: Jn. 14.15
C. All who truly love the Lord will also acknowledge Him alone as the Head of His body, the church: Eph. 1.22-23
CONCL.: This hymn is apparently not well known. In fact, the only book in which I have ever seen it is Christian Hymns (No. 1). In addition, I have been able to find out very little background information about it. However, it contains a very important principle. It is certainly true that we must be very careful not to support or endorse those who do not bring the true doctrine of Christ, lest we be partakers of their evil deeds (2 Jn. 9-11). At the same time, we should pray and work toward a time when all who acknowledge the truth will love one another and labor together to serve the Lord. So, whenever things like this do happen, we shall find "How Pleasing to Behold and See."