Dependence, the proof of progress
On every recurring anniversary we ought to be conscious of two things; one always fully, the second partially, and not so positively. The first, God's gracious ways, His favour to us during the past year, always abundant, if we are able to appreciate it; the second thing is that we are increasingly devoted to Him.
The feast of tabernacles was of this character; it commemorated, in the gathering, the full and bounteous way in which God had provided for them; and at the same moment they dwelt in booths, dependent on Him only, as they were when they came out of Egypt. They reverted to the hour when they were without anything, and entirely cast upon Him, while they reviewed the way in which He had crowned the year with blessing. Does your heart keep the feast in booths? "Booths" is the expression and evidence of dependence, and your growth is always marked by your dwelling in booths; that is, by your dependence.
I think the essential for progress is not the same as the mark of it. The essential is simply following Him - "Whither thou goest, I will go" (Ruth 1:16). There is no progress but as this is owned. Go one step out of His track, and you are not progressing, even though you have life. But the mark, or proof, that you are progressing is that you are more dependent on Him; you have an increasing sense of such personal helplessness that you cannot get on without direct support from Him, like Peter when he walked on the water.
I should wish to see you like a forest tree, which the higher it grows, the more do its branches, or extension, put forth the buds of life. I think you should be peculiarly striving together with the servants in this day in the gospel. I desire to see you so ingathering that, while you are like the merchant ships, you rise also while it is yet night - you circumscribe your own ease, but your "candle goeth not out by night" (Proverbs 31:18).
I should like to see you so largely identified with the interests of Christ on earth that, while He takes care that down - the love of others - should line your nest here, yet you are a servant of the church; a carrier-pigeon, bearing the need of His people to Himself, and in His mercy made instrumental in bringing them help. "The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much" (Ecclesiastes 5:12).
I believe a blessed mission has been given you, and I trust nothing may divert you from it, and that each year your ingathering may be more significant of the Lord's present favour to you; and that you, while simply dwelling in booths, dependent on Him only, may rejoice with untiring joy before Him.