Total Life Ministries
Robinson CrusoeB A Born Again Christian
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Once Crusoe had truly repented and placed his faith in Jesus, his mind began to be renewed by the Word:
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:
By the end of his second year, as his physical comfort on the island increased, he stated:
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:
[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.]