The following poem was written by Martha Snell Nicholson. She was born 1888 in Nance County, Nebraska, the daughter of Samuel F. Snell and Mary B. Coy. In 1919 she married Howard Wren Nicholson in Washington and thy soon moved to California. According to her obituary and various internet sources, Mrs. Nicholson was an invalid and bedridden for about 30 years before her death in 1957. She and her husband are buried at the Westminster Memorial Park in Orange County, California.
Of her, pastor and well-known radio teacher J. Vernon McGee wrote:
I was privileged to know the poet, Martha Snell Nicholson, and to be her pastor. She suffered terrible pain whenever her body was touched, so much so she couldn’t leave her home. Well, she wanted to be baptized by immersion. So, we went to her home and as I baptized her, lowering her into a bathtub filled with water, she screamed out in pain. It was horrible. But if you read any of her poetry, you’d never dream that she suffered so. It was God’s beautiful discipline working in her in order to bless others.Despite her chronic illnesses (apparently she was a sickly child even from birth), she read widely and developed an enjoyment of poetry. Her suffering became a catalyst for her poetry, spiritual, biblical, and heartfelt in praising her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. WorldCat library catalog has over 2 dozen listings for Martha Snell Nicholson, including Twenty Years of Pain and Thankfulness: by One Who has Learned Songs in the Night (a small brochure).
“Treasures” is the title of the poem below, which teaches that God in his providence empties our hands of “every glittering toy” to fill them with “his own transcendent riches.” I was not aware that the poem had ever been put to music. Since it is 8s.7s. meter, I thought it would work with the well-known tune Holy Manna. Later I discovered that a gospel group called The Couriers have sung it under the title Empty Hands (the music apparently written by Tom Fettke). A lady named Mary W. Bentley has a song on YouTube titled One By One, which uses Nicholson’s poetry from “Treasures.”[i]
1. One by one He took them from me,
All the things I valued most,
Until I was empty-handed;
Every glittering toy was lost.
2. And I walked earth’s highways, grieving.
In my rags and poverty.
Till I heard His voice inviting,
“Lift your empty hands to Me!”
3. So I held my hands toward heaven,
And He filled them with a store
Of His own transcendent riches,
Till they could contain no more.
4. And at last I comprehended
With my stupid mind and dull,
That God could not pour His riches
Into hands already full!
[i] Library records suggest that “He became sin for us,” a poem by Martha Snell Nicholson, is used with a song in Harmony Bells (G. Kieffer Vaughan, editor, Lawrenceburg, TN: James D. Vaughan Company, 1949).