Cant (from cantus, singing), in an ecclesiastical sense, denotes properly the whining or nasal tone common with many persons in their religious exercises, akin to what has been called "the clerical tone" in the pulpit. The Quakers were once proverbial for this peculiarity, amounting to a decided " sing-song" utterance, and it is said, not without a measure of truth, that the denomination of a clergyman may very generally be distinguished by his intonation. In a wider sense the word cant has come to designate an affectation of piety by outward demonstration, and this is a fault into which Christians are very liable to fall. Set phrases are often used by them, and stereotyped expressions, especially in prayer, without any definite meaning or propriety. All this savors of hypocrisy, and is sure to degenerate into formalism. The best prevention is an earnest spirit of sincere devotion in the fear of God, and a resolute watchfulness and criticism of one's self in public utterances. Elocution itself is not a safeguard against such mannerisms, and a theatrical air in a minister is only another form of cant. Whatever is assumed for effect in religion, without being natural and spontaneous, may be classed under this head.

Definition of can

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