Robinson CrusoeB A Born Again Christian
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Many years ago, we read the novel Robinson Crusoe to see if it was appropriate for our children. Before beginning, we supposed we already knew the basic story of the book: A shipwrecked man survives alone for a long time on a deserted island with a native named Friday whom he rescued. But as we read, we were thrilled to discover that the central theme in the story is the testimony of how Robinson Crusoe came to know Christ and how salvation changed his life. Indeed, it appeared that one of the author's main motives in writing the story was to demonstrate his faith that the Word of God, by itself and apart from any human interaction, could bring a hardened sinner to Christ and teach him to walk with God.

A little research in the library revealed that the author, Daniel Defoe, was a Christian. His family were English Puritans who were persecuted for their faith. Defoe, born about 1660, studied to be a Presbyterian minister; however, he instead became a writer. He worked primarily as a journalist and political phampleteer, and was 59 years old when he published the "first English novel," Robinson Crusoe. Although the story was written nearly 300 years ago, the passages about rebellion, conviction, repentance, and renewal through Christ are as fresh and compelling as the testimony related by any contemporary Christian. Truly, because Jesus is the same yesterday, and today, and forever, there is a unity of experience in the body of Christ that spans the centuries.

Robinson Crusoe is written as the autobiography of a fictional man who in his latter years reflects on the course of his life. We will attempt to share his story with you by summarizing the plot and quoting passages at length so that his own words can speak for themselves. As you read, you will see the unfolding of Robinson Crusoe's coming to know the salvation of God through Christ Jesus.  We trust that his testimony will in some ways be a confirmation of your own.

Robinson Crusoe begins telling the story of his life from the point he was eighteen (in 1650) and wanted to become a sailor. His desire conflicted with his parents wishes for his life, and resulted in Crusoe's outright rebellion against them. Concerning this, he says:

...My head began to be filled very early with rambling thought [e.g., wanderlust]; my father...designed me for the law; but I would be satisfied with nothing but going to sea; and my inclination to this led me so strongly against the will, nay, the commands, of my father, and against all the entreaties and persuasions of my mother and other friends, that there seemed to be something fatal in that propension of nature, tending directly to the life of misery which was to befall me" (pgs. 9-10).

Crusoe's father gave him "serious and excellent counsel against what he foresaw was my design" (pg. 10). He drew his counsel from his own experience and wisdom, as well as from Proverbs. Concluding his appeal, the elder Crusoe promised that, although he would continue to pray for his son, nevertheless:

...If I did take this foolish step, God would not bless me, and I should have leisure hereafter to reflect upon having neglected his counsel, when there might be none to assist in my recovery (pg. 12).

Crusoe later realized that this final word from his father was prophetic and had indeed been fulfilled. However, at the time, he rejected his father's words and "resolved to run quite away from him" (pg. 13).

Crusoe's opportunity came within a year, when he was offered the chance to sail to London without cost. Crusoe reflects:

I consulted neither father nor mother any more, nor so much as sent them word of it; but leaving them to hear of it as they might, without asking God's blessing or my father's, without any consideration of circumstances or consequences, and in an ill hour, God knows...I went on board a ship bound for London" (pg. 14).

This short voyage was the first of two tests that Crusoe later realized were given him by God to either bring him to repentance or to harden his heart. On this trip, the ship hit a storm of no great magnitude but which greatly affected the novice sailor. In his fear, he bargained with God:

I made many vows and resolutions that, if it would please God to spare my life in this one voyage...I would go directly home to my father, and never set [my foot] into a ship again..." (pgs.15-16).

However, after the storm abated, his friend with whom he had sailed chided him for his fear and invited him to get drunk, which he proceeded to do:

In that one night's wickedness I drowned all my repentance, all my reflections upon my past conduct, all my resolutions for the future....I entirely forgot the vows and promises that I made in my distress....I shook them off...and I had, in five or six days, got as complete a victory over my conscience as any young fellow that resolved not to be troubled with it could desire" (pg. 17).

The second test, concerning which Crusoe says, "Providence...resolved to leave me entirely without excuse" (pg. 17-18), came on his next voyage. His ship hit such a great storm that the most experienced sailor on board prayed for deliverance. The ship foundered, but the crew, including Crusoe, was saved. In spite of this test, Crusoe still determined to continue on the sea, even after the captain of the lost vessel, echoing the captain of the ship Jonah sailed in, declares: ought never to go to sea any more; you ought to take this for a plain and visible token that you are not to be a seafaring man...if you do not go back [home], wherever you go you will meet with nothing but disasters and disappointments, till your father's words are fulfilled upon you" (pgs. 24-25).

The captain's warning was soon to be fulfilled, for Crusoe's next venture was as a trader to Guinea, on the west coast of Africa. In route, his ship was attacked by Moorish pirates. Crusoe was captured and held as a slave for two years on the coast of Morocco. However, his slavery "was but a taste of the misery I was to go through" (pg. 29).

After two years, Crusoe escaped and was picked up by a Portuguese ship headed for Brazil. In Brazil, he acquired some land and began to plant sugar cane. He began to prosper, but "was still to be the willful agent of all my own miseries" (pg. 53). Several planters offered to include him in an adventure to bring slaves from Africa to Brazil, for use on their own plantations. Crusoe accepted:

But I, that was born to be my own destroyer, could no more resist the offer than I could restrain my first rambling designs when my father's good counsel was lost upon me...I went on board in an evil hour again, the 1st of September, 1659, being the same day eight years that I went from my father and order to act the rebel to their authority and the fool to my own interest" (pgs 56-57).

Crusoe sailed from Brazil towards Africa, but soon encountered two hurricanes which battered the ship for days. Finally they ran aground in sight of an island. Fearing that the ship would break up, the crew put out a boat and rowed toward land, but the boat capsized in the waves and surf. Crusoe made it to shore, the only survivor. For the next twenty-eight years, Robinson Crusoe was marooned on this uninhabited island off the coast of what is now Venezuela.

During Crusoe's first two weeks on the island, the ship, which had not broken up in the storm, was still accessible on a sandbar offshore. Crusoe retrieved numerous supplies during that time, including "three very good Bibles" (pg. 87). For several months he familiarized himself with the island and began to build shelter and learn to live there. During these months, Crusoe often experienced a sense of misery and desolation at being cast alone upon the island:

I had a dismal prospect of my condition...I had great reason to consider it as a determination of Heaven that in this desolate place, and in this desolate manner, I should end my life. The tears would run plentifully down my face when I made these reflections (pg. 84).

In his ninth month, Crusoe became very sick with a fever. During this illness, he began to pray for the first time since his very first storm at sea. He was ignorant how to pray, "Only I lay and cried, 'Lord, look upon me! Lord, pity me! Lord, have mercy upon me!'" (pg. 115). During this sickness, as the "miseries of death came to place itself before me," Crusoe's conscience began to come alive. "I began to reproach myself with my past life" (pg. 119). On the ninth day of the sickness, he had a terrible dream:

I thought that I was sitting on the ground...and that I saw a man descend from a great black cloud, in a bright flame of fire, and light upon the ground. He was all over as bright as a flame, so that I could but just bear to look towards him. His countenance was most inexpressibly dreadful, impossible for words to describe. When he stepped upon the ground with his feet, I thought the earth trembled...and all the air looked, to my apprehension, as if it had been filled with flashes of fire. He was no sooner landed upon the earth but he moved forward towards me with a long spear or weapon in his hand to kill me; and when he came to a rising ground, at some distance, he spoke to me--or I heard a voice so terrible that it is impossible to express the terror of it. All that I can say I understood was this: 'Seeing all these things have not brought thee to repentance, now thou shalt die.,'--at which words, I thought he lifted up the spear that was in his hand to kill me" (pgs. 115-116).

Crusoe was greatly affected by this dream and began to reflect on his life. He saw that, since leaving home, he had considered neither God nor his own inward ways:

A certain stupidity of soul without desire of good, or conscience of evil, had entirely overwhelmed me...not having the least sense, either of the fear of God in dangers, or of thankfulness to God in deliverances....Through all the variety of miseries that had to this day befallen me, I never had so much as once thought of its being the hand of God, or that it was a just punishment for my sins--my rebellious behavior against my father--or my present sins, which were great--or so much as a punishment for the general course of my wicked life" (pgs. 116-117).

He began to meditate on God as sovereign creator and guide of all things. His reflections woke him to the fact that God must know his condition and even be behind his being on the island. He started to angrily and arrogantly question why God had appointed him to be marooned, when his conscience checked him and said to him:

"Wretch, dost thou ask what thou hast done? Look back upon a dreadful misspent life, and ask thyself, what thou hast not done? Ask, why is it that thou wert not long ago destroyed? Why wert thou not drowned in Yarmouth Roads? killed in the fight, when the ship was taken by the Sallee man-of-war? devoured by the wild beasts off the coast of Africa? or drowned here, when all the crew perished but thyself? Dost thou ask, What have I done?" (pg. 122).

Conviction silenced Crusoe:  "I was struck dumb with these reflections, as one astonished, and had not a word to say,--no, not to answer to myself..." (pg. 122).

Crusoe then got out one of the Bibles he had saved from the ship, into which he had not had time or desire to look prior to this time. The first verse that came to his attention was, "Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me" (pg. 123). At first he took this as a promise that he would be rescued from the island. But when help did not immediately materialize, he responded by questioning God in unbelief. For several days he felt hopeless. Finally, realizing that the sickness had not returned, he saw that getting over the sickness was a deliverance, whereupon he kneeled and thanked God. Following this, he began to seriously read the New Testament morning and evening. The word of God shortly brought him to salvation:

It was not long after I set seriously to this work, till I found my heart more deeply and sincerely affected with the wickedness of my past life. The impression of my dream revived; and the words, "All these things have not brought thee to repentance," ran seriously in my thoughts. I was earnestly begging of God to give me repentance, when it happened providentially, the very day, that reading the Scripture, I came to these words: "He is exalted a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and to give remission." I threw down the book; and with my heart as well as my hands lifted up to heaven, in a kind of ecstasy of joy I cried out aloud, "Jesus, thou Son of David! Jesus! thou exalted Prince and Saviour! give me repentance!" This was the first time I could say, in the true sense of the words, that I prayed in all my life; for now I prayed with a sense of my condition, and with a true Scripture view of hope, founded on the encouragement of the Word of God; and from this time, I may say, I began to have hope that God would hear me (pgs. 126-127).

Once Crusoe had truly repented and placed his faith in Jesus, his mind began to be renewed by the Word:

Now I looked back upon my past life with such horror, and my sins appeared so dreadful, that my soul sought nothing of God but deliverance from the load of guilt that bore down all my comfort. As for my solitary life, it was nothing; I did not so much as pray to be delivered from it, or think of it; it was all of no consideration, in comparison of this. And I added this part here, to hint to whoever shall read it that whenever they come to a true sense of things, they will find deliverance from sin a much greater blessing than deliverance from affliction" (pg. 127).

Crusoe's salvation occurred in his first year on the island. He still had 27 years before his rescue from the island came. During these years, he continued in his relationship to God as he busied himself with innumerable projects to develop the island's resources for his sustenance and safety. "I daily read the Word of God, and applied all the comforts of it to my present state" (pg. 147). On each anniversary of his shipwreck, he set apart a day of fasting for prayer and thanksgiving for God's grace and goodness to him. At the end of his first year, he said:

My condition began now to be, though not less miserable as to my way of living, yet much easier to my mind: and my thoughts being directed, by a constant reading the Scripture and praying to God, to things of a higher nature, I had a great deal of comfort within, which, till now, I knew nothing of..." (pg. 127).

By the end of his second year, as his physical comfort on the island increased, he stated:

I gave humble and hearty thanks that God had been pleased to discover to me that it was possible I might be more happy in this solitary condition than I should have been in a liberty of society, and in all the pleasures of the world; that he could fully make up to me the deficiencies of my solitary state, and the want of human society, by his presence, and the communications of his grace to my soul, supporting, comforting, and encouraging me to depend upon his providence here, and hope for his eternal presence hereafter. It was now that I began sensibly to feel how much more happy the life I now led was, with all its miserable circumstances, than the wicked, cursed, abominable life I led all the past part of my days; and now having changed both my sorrows and my joys, my very desires altered, my affections changed their gusts, and my delights were perfectly new from what they were at first coming, or, indeed, for the two years past" (pg. 146).

I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed rather than what I wanted, and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts that I cannot express them; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them because they see and covet something that he has not given them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have" (pg. 168).

Thus I lived mighty comfortably, my mind being entirely composed by resigning to the will of God, and throwing myself wholly upon the disposal of his providence (pg. 175).

In the twenty-fourth year of his stay on the island, Crusoe rescued a native South American from cannibals who had come to the island to eat him in celebration of a military victory over his tribe. Crusoe called this man "Friday," because of the day of the week on which he rescued him. As they learned to communicate, Crusoe "was not slow to lay a foundation of religious knowledge in his mind..." (Pg 266). Crusoe's prayer was that God "would enable me to instruct savingly this poor savage, assisting by his Spirit the heart of the poor ignorant creature to receive the light of the knowledge of God in Christ, reconciling him to himself, and would guide me to speak so to him from the Word of God that his conscience might be convinced, his eyes opened, and his soul saved" (pg. 278).

Friday soon accepted Christ as his savior. Crusoe continued to instruct him from the Word, so that very soon "this savage was now a good Christian, a much better than I" (pg. 279). Reflecting upon the effect of the Word of God on not only his own life, but also that of Friday's, Crusoe said:

How infinite and inexpressible a blessing it is that the knowledge of God, and of the doctrine of salvation by Christ Jesus, is so plainly laid down in the Word of God, so easy to be received and understood, that, as the bare reading the scripture made me capable of understanding enough of my duty to carry me directly on to the great work of sincere repentance for my sins, and of laying hold of a Saviour for life and salvation, to a stated reformation in practice, and obedience to all God's commands, and this without any teacher or instructor, I mean human; so the same plain instruction sufficiently served to the enlightening of this savage creature, and bringing him to be such a Christian as I have known few equals to him in my life" (pg. 280).

[NOTE: All quotations are from the Windermere Edition of The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe, published by Rand McNally and Company of Chicago in 1914.]

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