*Posted by Kirk Spencer
When my oldest son was little, I would read to him at bedtime—first a chapter of the Bible and then a chapter from some classic work of literature. I remember one night in particular. We were making our way through “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe. The first part is written in the form of a journal (until he begins to run out of ink). For each journal entry the castaway gives a date. It was one of these dates—and what he entered that day—that captivated my attention. It was the date “July 4th” (Independence Day). And this is what he wrote:
July 4. 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 it, and imposed upon myself to read a while every morning and every night, not tying myself to the number of chapters, but as long as my thoughts should engage me. It was not long after I set seriously to this work, but 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 thought. 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 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 that 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.
Now I began to construe the words mentioned above, “Call on me, and I will deliver thee,” in a different sense from what I had ever done before; for then I had no notion of anything being called deliverance but my being delivered from the captivity I was in: for though I was indeed at large in the place, yet the island was certainly a prison to me, ant that in the worst sense in the world; but now I learned to take it in another sense. 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 on 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 to this. And I add 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.
As I was reading this passage to my son, it struck me as strange that Defoe (and Englishman) would choose the Independence Day of July 4th, the day when American colonists declared their self-deliverance from political tyranny, to discuss this critical moment of deliverance in the life of Robinson Crusoe; the moment when he declares his divine deliverance from the tyranny of a life of sin.
When I finished reading, I began to explain this to my son—how the author chose Independence Day to talk about divine deliverance. And, as I turned to see his expression, I realized he was fast asleep… so I stopped talking. I was alone in my thoughts as I tucked him in, turned off the light, wandered into the living-room, sat down in my chair… and then it hit me… “Wait a minute! When was “Robinson Crusoe” written?” I went back into the dark room, slipped the book off the bed stand and went back into the light and opened to the title page—1719.
When Defoe wrote “July 4” it was just any other day. It would not be Independence Day for another 57 years. And when the last version of Declaration of Independence was dated as “July 4” again it was just another day. But as Providence would have it, sitting in my chair, castaway in my thoughts that night, I was reminded that the deliverance we celebrate every 4th is a self-deliverance by force of arms from the tyranny of politics… And from this affliction we are still not free. But as Defoe’s Crusoe reminds us (just before he ran out of ink), there is a much greater deliverance—a blessed divine deliverance—from the greater affliction of the tyranny of our own heart. It comes by way of the grace gift of God and faith in Christ and repentance He also gives as a gift when called upon; for we are all castaways and we all need to be rescued from ourselves first. And this is the Independence Day deliverance Robinson Crusoe found on his 4th of July.