This is Part Two of a short look at the novel, Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe.
. . . . Perhaps most importantly Crusoe starts to recognize that it may be these calamities are God’s way of punishing him for his sins of rebellion and foolishness. Crusoe “had not previously considered that all this was the hand of God’s judgement . . . ‘that God had appointed all this to befall me, that I was brought to this miserable circumstance by his direction, he having the sole power, not of me only, but of everything that happened in the world’.” Crusoe now comes to see the how the hand of God’s Providence has been disciplining and prodding, protecting and guiding him to see his utter helplessness and thereby, his great need for forgiveness and reconciliation from and with God. Defoe writes thus about Crusoe’s change of heart:
“I was earnestly begging God to give me repentance . . . I cried aloud, ‘Jesus, thou Son of David, Jesus, thou exalted Price and Saviour, give me repentance!’ Now my soul sought nothing from God but deliverance from the load of guilt that bore down all my comfort. As for my solitary life, it was nothing . . . for whenever men come to a true sense of things they will find deliverance from sin a much greater blessing than deliverance from affliction.”
Crusoe’s conscience awakened: he saw his need to turn away from sin and turn to the Saviour. He realized that nothing he did or could do would be able to save his soul. He might be able to survive on a deserted island, but it was God’s Providence which put him there in the first place.
The change in Crusoe is one which is marked by a dependence upon God rather than self, and hope rather than despair. He renames his island the “Happy Desert” from its former name of the “Island of Despair.” And even when he comes across traces of cannibalistic natives who have come to his island, Crusoe, while sensibly taking such precautions as deemed necessary, is comforted by the protection of God and the hope of His blessing. His whole view of his world has changed: before, he was hopeless of ever getting off the island – but now he realises that the hand of Providence has placed him here for a reason, and he lives in recognition of that fact.
It was mentioned earlier that Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe a few years before the Great Awakening of the 1730’s and ‘40’s in the American Colonies. At the speed whereby books made their way from Europe to the New World, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was beginning to be circulated in the Americas around the time of the Great Awakening. And there was a remarkable similarity between Robinson Crusoe and the culture in the Colonies at this time. People were living in relative security, with a burgeoning sense of independence leading to a forgetfulness of the power and providence of their Maker. However, there were threats of Indian and French conflict too, with many men joining the militia in preparation for war. At this same time godly men, such as George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards, were preaching the Gospel up and down the Colonies, calling people to repent and trust in Christ.
The result of this bold preaching of truth, and the call of the Gospel, was that many people were convicted of their sin and turned in repentance and faith to Christ – just like Crusoe. In fact, the story of Robinson Crusoe cannot be understood apart from the workings of God. Except for the workings of Providence, Crusoe most probably would have died. And when he trusted in Christ to protect him and save not just his body, but also his soul, Crusoe experienced great comfort and joy. And in the same way, but for the preaching of men like George Whitefield, many men’s souls would have been lost in hell. When they turned to the Lord and believed, they then had life in his name.
One cannot help but see the relationships between religion, faith, providence, and hope in Defoe’s novel. It should remind us to not place our hope in things on earth, our own strength, or anything else in this fading world. And we also ought to see the many similarities between the fictional story Robinson Crusoe and the real history of the Great Awakening. In both cases blessing from God followed belief in the truth of the Gospel. This should encourage us to turn from our fear of men, and self-serving ways, and believe fully in the truth of God’s Word, namely, that as we trust in him, he will protect and save us to the end.
Written and Posted by William A Moore
 Douglas Bond, Guns of Thunder, P&R Publishing (2007), P. 74-75
All other quotations from Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, published by Penguin Books, 2001.