The very first law requiring church attendance on Sunday was enacted in the colony of Virginia in 1610 and read as follows:
“Every man and woman shall repair in the morning to the di-vine service and sermons preached upon the Sabbath day, and in the afternoon to divine service, and catechizing, upon pain for the first fault to lose their provision and the allowance for the whole week following; for the second, to lose the said allowance and also be whipt; and for the third to suffer death.”
Articles, Lawes, and Orders, Divine, Politique, and Martiall for the Colony of Virginea, in William Strachey, For the Colony in Virginea Britannia: Lawes, Divine, Morall and Martiall, Etc. (London: Walter Barre, 1612), 1-7, 19.
Did you get that? Attend services both morning and afternoon—or face the early-American version of “three strikes and you’re out.” Strike one: lose your food allowance for a week. Strike two: lose your food allowance for a week and be whipped. Strike three: kiss your life goodbye. And this was not some totalitarian country, some atheistic dictatorship such as China or North Korea or Cuba. Nor was it some theocratic regime such as Iran. This was America.
Other colonies besides Virginia had their own Sunday laws, requiring attendance at services and forbidding everything from working to sports and recreation to swearing and “tippling” at the taverns. Punishments included fines of money and up to 200 pounds of tobacco, being locked in the public stocks, jail time, and again, in “grievous” cases, death.
Captain Kemble of Boston, Massachusetts, was in 1656 locked in the public stocks for two hours for kissing his wife on the Sabbath (Sunday) after spending three years at sea. The charge? “Unseemly behavior.”
Even newly elected president George Washington was not exempt from punishment under Sabbath laws. As he traveled from Connecticut to a town in New York to attend worship service one Sunday in 1789, Washington was detained by a tithingman for violating Connecticut’s law forbidding unnecessary travel on Sunday. Washington was permitted to continue on his journey only after he promised to go no farther than his destination town.
So given the overwhelming calamities befalling America, it would not be at all surprising if the people of this country called for their legislators to enact a federal Sunday law for the good of families, for the good of the economy, and as a way to turn this nation back to its roots—faith in God. And Congress does not hesitate to pass the necessary laws.
Despite the new legislation, national calamities don’t seem to abate, and many conclude that God cannot show His mercy until the nation is united in reverencing Him by keeping Sunday as a day of rest and worship. So new supplemental legislation is passed, mandating that those who fail to come into line will be punished—perhaps by the forfeiture of the right to buy and sell—economic boycott (see Revelation 13:17).
People of all faiths and of, till now, no faith at all steadily conclude that something must be done to show God they mean to change their ways and return to Him. So yes, what better way than starting to go back to church each Sunday? The legislation, with wide support, easily passes.
But the national calamities don’t seem to stop, so new supplemental legislation is added requiring that any who ignore the Sunday law will face punishments—among them, forfeiting the right to buy or sell, economic boycott (see Revelation 13:17).
Once the United States has passed a strict law enforcing Sunday worship, the rest of the world is encouraged to follow suit. The law becomes universal, complete with the “no buying or selling” provision against offenders who refuse to go along. This brings the entire world to a great final test of loyalty, as to whether they will obey God and worship on the seventh-day Sabbath He created (see Genesis 2:1-3) and enshrined in His unchanging, unchangeable Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:8-11).
Those who are loyal to God, the Bible says, will receive “the seal of God” (see Revelation 7:2, 3; 9:4). Those disloyal to Him will receive “the mark of the beast” (see Revelation 13:7; 14:9, 11: 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; and 20:4).