Robinson Crusoe

While travelling from Sydney to Manchester this month, I read Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Perhaps it was not the best of choice, what with the protagonist having a long, international journey interrupted by a storm and crashing onto an unknown, tropical island where for over twenty years he eked out a lonely existence. I should not have been surprised by the level and frequency of theology included in a novel from 1719, but I was. Crusoe clearly undergoes a Christian conversion, and shared his faith with Man Friday, the chap he rescues from savage cannibals. Frequently he talks of the providence of God, as puritans and early dissenters were wont to do. Defoe had once been a candidate for Presbyterian ministry, at a time when such clergy were at best politically suspect and at worse subjected to unpleasant discrimination and even persecution. Not only was it a good read, passing the long hours of a wearisome, long-haul flight, but it offered some morsels of spiritual food into the bargain:

“Those people cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them because they see and covet what He has not given them. All of our discontents for what we want appear to me to spring from want of thankfulness for what we have.”

“Redemption from sin is greater then redemption from affliction.”

“How mercifully can our Creator treat His creatures, even in those conditions in which they seemed to be overwhelmed in destruction! How can He sweeten the bitterest providences, and give us cause to praise Him for dungeons and prisons! What a table was here spread for me in a wilderness where I saw nothing at first but to perish for hunger!”

“What is this earth and sea of which I have seen so much? Whence is it produced? And what am I and all the other creatures, wild and tame, humane and brutal? Whence are we? Sure we are all made by some secret power, who formed the earth and sea, the air and sky; and who is that? Then it followed most naturally, It is God that has made it all. Well, but then it came on strangely, if God has made all these things, He guides and governs them all, and all things that concern them; for the power that could make all things must certainly have power to guide and direct them. If so, nothing can happen in the great circuit of His works, either without His knowledge or appointment. And if nothing happens without His knowledge, He knows that I am here, and am in this dreadful condition; and if nothing happens without His appointment, He has appointed all this to befall me."

Image by Jerzy Morkis from Pixabay