Heaven on Earth by Stephen J. Nichols attempts to capture the essence of Jonathan Edwards’s vision for living in between heaven and earth. The author confronts the typical negative response to Jonathan Edwards who is regularly caricatured as a mean-spirited Puritan who is preoccupied with the wrath of God. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone familiar with Edwards admits that the Puritan divine preached unashamedly about the holy wrath of God. But limiting the essence of his thought to eschatological fury is short-sighted and wrong.
Stephen Nichols skillfully alerts readers to the passion the resides in Jonathan Edwards to live a God-centered life on this side of heaven. After introducing the broad strokes of Edwards’s biography, the author recasts some sermons which were penned by Edwards. In these sermons, readers will note that Edwards emphasized the pursuit of pleasure, a theme which has been popularized by John Piper in his best-selling book, Desiring God. Piper gets to the core of Edwardsian thought in his pithy statement, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
Nichols unpacks the emphasis on charity and works of love that emerges in Jonathan Edward’s writing: “It is the absolute and indispensable duty of the people of God, to give bountifully and willingly for supplying the wants of the needy.”
And the happiness of God’s people is clearly revealed in the work of Jonathan Edwards: “The happiness of the saints in heaven consists partly in that they serve God … When the creature is in that state that is most agreeable to the proper perfection of its nature, then it is in its most happy state.”
Stephen Nichols successfully accomplishes his objective in this short introduction to the worldview of Jonathan Edwards. My prayer is that newcomers to Edwards will read this excellent book and be drawn to read the primary sources. My experience with Jonathan Edwards over the last twenty-five years has been nothing short of revolutionary.