Cant, Andrew (DNB00)

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CANT, ANDREW (1590?–1663), ecclesiastical leader and preacher, called by Principal Baillie ‘ane super-excellent preacher,’ comes into notice in 1620 or 1623, when some of the people of Edinburgh desired to have him for their minister; but as he was known to be obnoxious to the king, he did not on either occasion obtain the appointment. In 1633 he became minister of Pitsligo in Aberdeenshire, and, unlike most of the ministers in that quarter, was a strong champion of the covenants and opponent of the episcopising endeavours of the king. In July 1638 he was appointed by the ‘commissioners at the tables,’ with two other ministers (Dickson and Henderson) and three noblemen (Montrose, Kinghorn, and Cowper), to endeavour to bring the people of the north into sympathy with the presbyterian cause. The reception of the commissioners by the magistrates of Aberdeen was amusing, the magistrates meeting them and offering them the hospitality of the city, which the commissioners declined, till they should see if they would take the covenant. The ‘Aberdeen doctors’ were famous in the church for their opposition to the covenant, and prepared certain questions for the commissioners, which led to a wordy series of answers, replies, and duplies on either side. The feeling was so strong that the commissioners were excluded from the Aberdeen pulpits, and had to preach in the open air.

In November 1638 Cant took part in the famous Glasgow assembly, by which prelacy was abolished, and at the solicitation of Lord Lothian was translated from Pitsligo to Newbattle in Midlothian. In 1640, with some other of the most eminent ministers, he was appointed chaplain to the covenanting army, and accompanied it during the campaign. In the same year he was translated to Aberdeen. While one of the most unbending sticklers for the covenants, he was a devoted royalist, and on one occasion, in the time of Cromwell, when many English officers were in his church, he uttered so strong sentiments on duty to the king and on the conduct of those who were against him, that the officers rose up and some of them drew their swords and advanced towards the pulpit. The intrepid minister opened his breast, and said to them, ‘Here is the man who uttered these sentiments,’ inviting them to strike him if they dared. ‘He had once been a captain,’ says Wodrow, who tells the story, ‘and was one of the most bold and resolute men of his day.’ His dauntless courage, with his stirring popular eloquence, gave him a wide fame; but the suggestion in the ‘Spectator’ that the term ‘to cant’ was derived from his name is of course groundless. It can easily be accounted for from the Latin canto. Cant died 30 April 1663. By his wife, Margaret Irvine, he left two sons and two daughters. His daughter Sarah married Alexander Jaffray [q. v.] of Aberdeen. His son Andrew was principal of the university of Edinburgh from 1675 to 1685. Another Andrew Cant, who was deprived of his charge at the revolution in 1690, was consecrated a bishop of the episcopal church of Scotland in 1722.

[Scott's Fasti Eccl. Scot. vi. 463, 635, 894; Livingstone's Biographies; Row's and Calderwood's Histories of the Kirk of Scotland; Baillie's Letters; Wodrow's Analecta; Balfour's Annals; Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen; Anderson's Scottish Nation; Imperial Dict. of Biogr.]

W. G. B.