Vol.XX No.VI Pg.8
August 1983

Stuff About Things

Robert F. Turner

I was told that in former years the State of Tennessee required those getting married to (a) pray, and (b) put up $1,250 bond. Now that's Stuff About Things material, so I asked for proof and was given a Xerox copy of a license (July 17, 1905; Houston County) which read: _______ (groom) and _______ (apparently someone who would go his bond) "are held and firmly bound to the State of Tennessee, in the sum of Twelve Hundred and Fifty Dollars, to which payment well and truly to be made, we bind ourselves... etc." There followed the two signatures.

Then, "The condition of the above obligation is such, That whereas, the above bounden _______ (groom) has this day prayed and obtained a license to marry_______ (bride); Now, if there is no lawful cause to obstruct said marriage and for which license is desired, then this obligation to be void, otherwise to remain in full force and virtue in law." If you do not "catch" it on first reading you need not feel badly.

The legal terminology may "throw" you, but no more so than preconceptions established by my first remark. If led to expect certain things we tend to see them, even when they are not there to see. "Pray" means, "entreat, implore." This instrument says someone asked for a license: "prayed" to the County Clerk. And the $1,250 bond was to insure there was no legal obstruction to the proposed marriage, like bigamy. The money was due only if it turned out the man had no legal right to use this license.

The point in calling this to your attention could be the importance of examining our current position before God (not just before men) before we contract a marriage. Someone remarked (before we understood this Tennessee license) that if it took prayer and $1,250 to get married, the contract might be more seriously regarded. I'm doubtful. If God's will and eternal judgment fail to sway us so would the $1,250 price tag.

But another point is the necessity for objective reading; for looking carefully at words, understanding use and meaning at the time of writing. Do you read your Bible with preconceptions, seeing what you want to see? No dollar bond can cover that blunder.