Puritan Advice Regarding Sinful Dreams (Part 1)

My dreams are shot in graphic HD.

A couple of nights ago I had a sinfully charged sexually provocative dream, the kind that blunts your morning and sticks with you during the day. It was the kind of dream that makes you think, “now where in the world did that come from?” Try as I might, I simply couldn’t shake it off. (And just so you don’t mistake me for some throwback Victorian prude allergic to sex, I’m a happily married man of 20 years with five children who enjoys the gifts of my wife, marriage and, yes, sex. Just to be clear.)

Later in the evening as I was lying in bed thinking about the day, I remembered something I read in Richard Baxter’s Christian Directory. (I previously wrote an introduction to the book here). In Part 1 (Christian Ethics), chapter 8, “Directions for the Government Against the Passions” part 7 “Directions Against Sinful Dreams,” Baxter provides seven practical “directions,” i.e. strong suggestions, for how to deal with sinful dreams.

In part one of this three-part post, I’ll focus on Baxter’s introduction and potential causes for sinful dreams. Part two will address directives 1-4, concluding with part three, directives 5-7.  Where necessary, I’ll modify Baxter’s 17th century langauge for present day readability.

Even if your imagination–conscious or not–isn’t as actively vivid as mine, Baxter provides surprisingly wise counsel about how to better manage and understand your dreams in a God-glorifying way.

Baxter begins:

“Dreams are neither good or sinful simply in themselves, because they are not rational and voluntary, nor in our power; but they are often made sinful by some other voluntary act: they may be made sinful by participation and consequently the acts that make them sinful, are either such as go before, or such as follows after:

1. Before the dream: The antecedent causes are any sinful act which disturbs the body, or any sin which inclines the fantasy and mind, or the omission of what was necessary to prevent them.

2. After the dream: The causes which afterwards make them objectively sinful are the ill uses that people make of them, i.e. as when they take their dreams to be divine revelations, or trust to them, or are frightened by them as ominous, or as prophetical and make them the ground of their actions, and seduce themselves by the phantasms of their own brains.”

Next: Part 2 of “Puritan Advice Regarding Sinful Dreams”

2 thoughts on “Puritan Advice Regarding Sinful Dreams (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 1) | God in the Wasteland

  2. Pingback: Puritan Advice Regarding Sinful Dreams (Part 2) | God in the Wasteland

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