"We are thoroughly enjoying this book series. We are now reading book #3, 'Mr. Pipes Comes to America'. My children want to be read to every day with this series. It would be nice if a cd was made with each hymn discussed in the books. This way, for the people like ourselves who do not play an instrument, could sing along with them. These books should be read in order. Again, these are excellent!"
"Mr. Bond's wonderful book not only enlightens the reader to many fascinating biographies of the fathers and mothers of our hymnal, but tells a story in an interesting way in order to even keep the interest of young children. I highly recommend it to all, young and old, especially to be placed in a homeschool study. It is refreshing to see a book that tells the story of the important history of our church that has been so lacking before, especially in a children's book form. I highly commend Mr. Bond for his work."
"I had to do a book report on this book. I liked it VERY much. It is so clever, it is never "Children, I will tell you the story of Isaac Watts today"... Read the other two books and Bond's other trilogy the Crown & Covenant series. A must read!!"
"For several years we've memorized hymns as a family, so when I found this book I was ecstatic. We're reading it a chapter a month and learning one of the hymns that goes with each story. It's obvious that an amazing amount of research went into this book, but somehow it doesn't feel as though the information is being stuffed into you. The stories become real. I look forward to reading the second one in the series, and hope to see others in the future. *note--the book includes lyrics and music for many of the hymns. I don't play an instrument, so we've learned some of the tunes from the Cyber Hymnal, another resource well worth checking out!"
"I received this book as a reading assignment my freshman year of high school. I remember thinking, "What is this? This is a kid's book! I don't want to read this!" Not reading it was not an option however, so I reluctantly read the book. My reluctance soon wore off as I became bewitched by the stories.
"Mr. Pipes, a saintly old British organist, meets two American children who are "stuck" in a small, rural British town for the summer. He teaches the children about the love of Christ through stories of hymn writers, including the great Isaac Watts. Throughout the book you learn about hymns, their writers, and music. The characters are intelligent, dynamic, and funny.
"This book is good for all ages and is great for family reading. It is especially geared towards ages 11-16, but any age can learn from it and enjoy it.
"This book is the first of a trilogy, and I recommend that you also purchase "Mr. Pipes and the Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation" as well as "Mr. Pipes comes to America." Enjoy!" [note" and the fourth, The Accidental Voyage.]
"Annie and Drew are "stuck" in Olney, England for the summer. Their mother brought them over, and leaves them pretty much to their selves except on the weekends. Everything in Olney is old, even most of the people, and the children are sure they are in for a boring summer. One of Drew's consolations is his CD player, which is constantly playing. One day they meet Mr. Pipes, so called because he is the church organist, and whom they find to be a great storyteller.
"In each chapter, he tells a short and appealing biography of many of the hymn writers from Britain. As he teaches the children to fish or row his boat, the "Toplady", he tells of the childhoods and interesting facts of the hymn writers. Mr. Pipes goes on to recite or sing some of their hymns, and tells why he appreciates them. In Olney, he shows them places in the lives of John Newton and William Cowper, and in the last chapter, they take a trip down the river Ouse to Bedford, and hear of John Bunyan.
"The children become interested in Mr. Pipes stories, and an affection grows between them. On one of the excursions with Mr. Pipes, Drew leaves his CD player somewhere, while he was listening to Mr. Pipes deploring modern music and praising these hymns of old. As Annie and Drew hear of God and learn the hymns (which their mother terms "dirges"), they see their sins and their need for God. They begin to desire a relationship with the Lord, and to serve Him in their lives. When they fly back to America, they will miss Olney, Mr. Pipes, and their other new friends, but they take with them their new knowledge and understanding of God.
"I enjoyed this book, in which I learned new things about many of the hymn writers. It was very interesting, with just enough story and plot blended into the biographies to keep the reader's interest, even for young children who might be anxious to know what happened next to the children and Mr. Pipes. I think the book (the first in a series of four) would be excellent read aloud to a family, with young children along with more mature ones enjoying the whole journey. At the end of each chapter, the lyrics and music for several of the hymns mentioned are included. This was helpful to me, because I had memorized all the verses included in the hymnbook to several of the hymns, and I was delighted to find more wonderful verses to them."
Being with my students in Olney, John Newton and William Cowper’s village, reminded me again of the reach of the grace of the gospel. We can so easily slip into thinking that Christianity is for the morally upright, for people who have it together, for normal people, functional people, smart people, witty people. You know, people like we want others to think we are. But then that would be elder brother false religion, not the gospel.
We blush and divert our eyes when we see how the gospel really works (or grind our teeth like the religious leaders of his day). Jesus came for the sick, not for the well. For smelly fisherman, not well-perfumed religious leaders; for lepers, not people with all their fingers and toes; for prostitutes, not self-righteous moral purists; for swindlers, not for well-suited accountant types; for the illiterate, not for the strutting sophisticated academic; for the demon possessed, for the insane. For the dead.
William Cowper, born in 1731 one hundred years after the death of his ancestor and fellow poet John Donne, was one of those with great needs, special needs. He was one of the insane. Bouts of insanity, even attempted suicides, odd behavior, dark depression, at times feeling himself a castaway, “whelmed in deeper gulfs” than any other. And yet God raised him up by the grace of the gospel, ministered to him through the love and kindness of his neighbor and pastor, John Newton, to be one of the church’s greatest hymn writers.
God truly does “move in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.” Behind a frowning providence, God truly does hide a smiling face. “Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan his work in vain.” God truly does work “deep in unfathomable mines of never failing skill.” He truly does “treasure up his bright designs and work his sovereign will.” God in his gospel truly “is his own interpreter and he will make it plain.”
There really is a sort of insanity about the gospel. It is completely counter-intuitive. It defies economic sense, quid pro quo, this for that, balance the scale of bad deeds with good deeds. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a tertium quid, something altogether outside of and above all other religions. I want to get this, down deep in my soul. O for a closer walk with God! O to see more clearly the Light that rises with healing in his wings. O to be washed in the precious blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins, there to lose all my guilty stain.
We will always get the gospel distorted when we think it is only for the functional, the repectable, people like us, right, and not for the insane, for the dead, who must be raised to life by the gracious, sovereign mercy of God. Cowper reminds me of that. When I am most honest about my heart, my desperate need for grace–justifying grace, and sanctifying grace, daily enabling grace–I can look past Cowper and just look in the mirror.
Douglas Bond, is a PCA ruling elder, high school teacher, and author of STAND FAST In the Way of Truth, and HOLD FAST In a Broken World, and other books for young people and adults. This article is taken from his Facebook blog and is used with permission.