August 26, 2015

Robinson Crusoe's Conversion

Stephen Nichols
Robinson Crusoe's Conversion


Shipwrecked, a castaway, menaced by cannibals and pirates. This is the story of Robinson Crusoe, the consummate adventure story. The book was written by Daniel Defoe and published in 1719.

First, a little bit about Daniel Defoe. He's buried in Bunhill Fields, which is a cemetery in London for Puritans. It is the Nonconformist cemetery. Actually, the portion where Defoe was buried was bombed out during World War II, and the graves in that area had to be moved. An obelisk commemorates the spot where Defoe's grave had been.

In 1719, he published his book, and we know it as Robinson Crusoe. The full title, though, is a bit more informative: The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pyrates. And that's just the title page.

In the book, Robinson Crusoe sets sail from Hull, England, in 1651. He is eventually shipwrecked and washes ashore on an island, and he spends twenty-eight years there. Some readers found the level of detail in the story incredible, and were convinced that it was a true story and that Defoe had simply found a diary and recounted its narrative.

A fascinating part of the tale is the account of Crusoe's conversion. Early in his time on the island, we begin to see some glimpses of his awareness of God. He came from a religious family, but he turned his back on all of that when he set out to become a sailor. But makes references to providence and other generic references to God. After a few years on the island, things are going well, but things are also not going so well. At one point, he simply stops and cries out to God in prayer, "Lord, have mercy." On the next page of the novel, we find that he is speaking of God as creator. And then he remembers that he has a Bible with him.

So, on the next page again, he starts reading his Bible. As he does so, he decides that he will read from the New Testament. At one point, Crusoe writes in his diary:

In the morning I took the Bible; and beginning at the New Testament, I began seriously to read it, and imposed upon myself to read a while every morning and every night; not tying myself to the number of chapters, but long as my thoughts should engage me. 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 through 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 Savior, 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 Savior! Give me repentance!"
Well, you can read the rest of the story for yourself. Robinson Crusoe had many more years on his island before he was rescued. But through it all, he trusted in the Savior he met on the island, the Lord Jesus Christ.