John Street (director of the MABC program at TMU) when teaching on the change which should take place in the Christian refers to the passage in Ephesians 4, where Paul writes a thief must stop stealing and then get a job and give to others. To merely stop stealing is to be a thief between jobs. But to work and give is to be something new. John Owen explains that the death of sin is to abound in grace:
The first is, How doth the Spirit mortify sin?
I answer, in general, three ways:—
[1.] By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh, and the fruits thereof and principles of them.
John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 19.
Sibbes makes a similar point about faith. It is not sufficient to merely stop trusting in the creature, we must put our trust in God:
Obs. That it is not sufficient to disclaim affiance in the creature, but we must pitch that affiance aright upon God.
We must cease one thing and begin another. Our faith will be somewhere. If we take it off of the creature and do not place it upon God, we will be like the soul where a demon has been driven out only to return with others worse than himself. Thus, the Scripture commands us repeatedly to take our trust off of the creature and to place it upon God:
We must not only take it off where it should not be placed, but set it where it should be. ‘Cease from evil, and learn to do well,’ Isa. 1:16, 17. Trust not in the creature. ‘Cease from man,’ as the prophet saith, ‘whose breath is in his nostrils,’ Isa. 2:22; ‘Commit thy ways to God, trust in him,’ Ps. 37:5.
He then makes an argument from common grace. We can read in many heathen authors the reasonable argument that we must stop trusting in the creature. The world will disappoint us. It reminds me of the Fire Sermon of Buddha, ““Everything, monks, is burning. What, monks, is everything that is burning? The eye, monks, is burning, form is burning, eye-consciousness is burning, eye-contact is burning. The feeling that arises dependent on eye-contact, whether pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, that also is burning.
With what is it burning? It is burning with the fire of passion, the fire of hatred, the fire of delusion. I declare that it is burning with the fire of birth, decay, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair.”
He can see the vanity of the creature, but he then can offer no solution beyond rejecting creation.
This much can be seen without grace:
The heathen, by the light of nature, knew this, that for the negative there is no trusting in the creature, which is a vain thing. They could speak wonderful wittily* and to purpose of these things, especially the Stoics. They could see the vanity of the creature. But for the positive part, where to place their confidence, that they were ignorant in. And so for the other part here, ‘Neither will we say any more to the works of our hands, Ye are our gods.’ Idolaters can see the vanity of false gods well enough.
But this rejection is insufficient; it is not salvation:
It is not enough therefore to rest in the negative part. A negative Christian is no Christian;
There must be a movement to trust in God
Oh! such make religion nothing but a matter of opinion, of canvassing an argument, &c. But it is another manner of matter, a divine power exercised upon the soul, whereby it is transformed into the obedience of divine truth, and moulded into it. So that there must be a positive as well as a negative religion; a cleaving to God as well as a forsaking of idols.