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The Scottish Nation

CANT, ANDREW, a rigid Covenanting minister in the reigns of Charles the First and Second, born about the end of the sixteenth century, appears to have belonged to East-Lothian. Having manifested an opposition to episcopacy, then in the ascendant, when, in October 1620, he was chosen one of the ministers of Edinburgh, the king and bishops would not sanction his election, and a Mr. William Forbes of Aberdeen was appointed in his stead. Nevertheless, on a vacancy again occurring, in 1623, the dissentients protested, but in vain, against proceeding to another election, on the ground that Cant had been already chosen, and was of right their minister. About 1638 he was appointed minister to the then newly erected parish of Pitsligo, on the north coast of Aberdeenshire. In July of that year, he was sent by the Tables – as the convention at Edinburgh of the representatives of the national party then opposed to the proceedings of Charles were called – to Aberdeen, to induce the inhabitants of that city to subscribe the Covenant, having for his co-adjutors the earl, afterwards marquis, of Montrose, Lord Couper, the master of Forbes, and other gentlemen, with two ministers. So earnest were they in their work that, to the displeasure of the citizens of Aberdeen, they declined all refreshments until the Covenant was signed, a procedure quite contrary to the practice always hitherto observed in that hospitable city. In the November following he sat in the General Assembly at Glasgow, which abolished episcopacy. He was with the army when the Scots obtained possession of Newcastle, August 30, 1640, and preached by appointment in one of the churches of that town. He was subsequently appointed one of the ministers of Aberdeen. According to Mr. Kennedy, in his ‘Annals’ of that city, for some time Mr. Cant had the whole ministerial charge. He exercised his ecclesiastical authority with rigour, and fulminated anathemas against the magistrates for not complying with his dictates. His congregation complained that no person could be admitted to communion by him, except those who were found qualified to partake of that ordinance. In place of yielding to the remonstrances of the magistrates, however, he declaimed against them from the pulpit for their interference in what pertained to the kirk session. The matter was represented to the provincial synod, but both the magistrates and the congregation were compelled to submit to his decrees. Spalding mentions that one Sunday afternoon, during sermon, some children made a noise outside the church, when Cant, who was preaching, sprang out of the pulpit and pursued them to some distance, and when he had dispersed them he returned and finished his sermon; but the people wondered at his behaviour.

      When Charles the First visited Scotland, in 1641, it being then his policy to conciliate the nation, Mr. Cant was appointed to preach before him at Edinburgh, August 221st. He frequently preached also before the Scots parliament. He was of that party in the church of Scotland hostile to the employment of individuals who had served Charles against the partisans of the first covenant, and known as the Protesting party. He was opposed to the bringing over of Charles the Second from Holland to Scotland in 1650, and according to Balfour (Annals, vol. iv. page 160), used all his influence to prevent the nation from undertaking to place him on the throne of England. In 1660, a complaint was presented to the magistrates of Aberdeen, charging Mr. Cant with having published a work written by Samuel Rutherford, entitled Lex Rex, and containing opinions then deemed seditious, and for fulminating anathemas and imprecations against many of his congregation. The proceedings which took place in consequence caused him, although no judgment was given against him, to relinquish his charge, and withdraw himself from the town with his family. Mr. Cant died about 1664. In No. 147 of the Spectator the opprobrious word ‘cant’ is described as having been derived from the name of this minister, who is there styled ‘illiterate,’ but this is equally in violation of sound scholarship and good feeling, as the etymology is certainly the Latin word Cantus, ‘a song,’ so expressive of the singing or whining tone of certain preachers.

      A Mr. Andrew Cant, supposed to have been a son of the Presbyterian minister of Aberdeen, was one of the Episcopalian ministers of Edinburgh, deprived at the Revolution. On 17th Oct., 1772, he was consecrated a bishop at Edinburgh.

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