Puritan Advice Regarding Sinful Dreams (Part 3)

(Read Part 1 and Part 2)

Here are Puritan Richard Baxter’s final three (of seven) practical suggestions regarding potential causes and cures for dealing with sinful dreams:

5.   Mind your last waking thoughts: Let your last thoughts before you go to sleep be holy, even quiet and consolatory, thoughts. Your dreams are apt to follow your last thoughts. If you go to sleep with worldliness or vanity in your minds, you can’t expect to be wiser or better when you are asleep than when you are awake. But if you end your day’s thoughts with God, then you’re more likely to dream about these things as well. Conversely, if your thoughts are distrustful, unbelieving and fearful, you’re more likely to dream about those things instead. Frightful and often sinful dreams follow sinful doubts and fears. But if you sweeten your last thoughts with the love of Christ, and remember your former mercies, or think upon eternal joys, or can confidently cast your thoughts and yourselves upon some promise, it will tend to the quietness of your sleep, and to having better dreams. And if you should die before the morning, wouldn’t it be better that your last thoughts be holy?

6. Mind your repentance: When you’ve found any corruption appearing in your dreams, make use of them for the renewing of your repentance and as fuel to better mortify that corruption.

7. Don’t read too much into your dreams: Don’t put greater stress upon your dreams than there is just cause. Don’t conclude more than your waking evidence discovers. Don’t give preference to your dreams above and beyond what you’re like when you’re awake. Moreover, hate the stupidity of those who dissect their dreams, measuring their expectations by them, casting themselves into hopes or fears by them. Diogenes once said, “What folly is it to be careless of your waking thoughts and actions, and inquisitive about your dreams! A person’s happiness or misery lies upon what he does when he’s awake, and not upon what he endures in his sleep.”