His first illness
Little did Lockhart realise when writing this letter that a fortnight later he would be stricken with an illness which would incapacitate him from ever again taking the same active part in the work which he loved so much. On 2nd June 1892 he was struck down by the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. For a few days the situation was very critical, but he did gradually recover and spent some time in a friend’s house near Chester (Balfour’s?) and then at the doctor’s recommendation three month’s rest from business, which he spent in Lincolnshire and Scotland, before resuming his normal activities.
Lockhart strongly objected to his illness being attributed to excess of work and was most unwilling to relinquish any of his work, either secular or spiritual, but he never regained his former vigour. He had at one time hoped that the time would come when he could relinquish his business and thus have an opportunity to visit more diligently amongst the members of his congregation, as well as to evangelise throughout the country, but it was not to be. He spoke at the Tabernacle on Wednesday 19th July 1893, which was to be his last speaking engagement there and on the following Sunday at Prince’s Gate Baptist Chapel.
His untimely death
After these speaking engagements he took seriously ill again and went up to Scotland for a period of rest, but sadly died whilst there on 12th August 1893 at the relatively young age of 57 years. His death came as a terrible blow to both his church and the people of Liverpool. His body was brought back from Scotland to Liverpool by train, which arrived at 4.00am. The office bearers of the Tabernacle were found there sorrowfully waiting on the platform. The coffin was then conveyed to their home in Devonshire Road where his library had been prepared that he might lie once again among the books he loved so well. Even at that hour a number of people from the church had gathered at a little distance to mourn this last homecoming.
The Mayor of Liverpool joined the funeral procession in his carriage and clergymen of all denominations, merchants from the Exchange and representatives of the various religious and philanthropic bodies with which he had been connected, gathered around the grave in Toxteth Cemetery in Smithdown Road, where the vast crowds of people (around 1000 people) had assembled.
At the Tabernacle the following Sunday the Rev J H Atkinson preached in the morning from the words "A man in Christ" and the Rev Samuel Pearson in the evening "Then shall they know that there hath been a prophet among them."
A tribute from the Liverpool Daily Post
The following is an extract from a very lengthy tribute to Lockhart by the Liverpool Daily Post on 14th August 1893.
"In these days, when it is often and foolishly said that men do nothing entirely without reference to gain, there is consolation in regarding such a life as closed on Saturday, when "W P Lockhart" as he was always called, "gave his pure soul unto his Captain Christ, under whose colours he had fought so long." The great volunteer preacher passed away after the briefest possible retirement, expected to be only temporary, from public and private labour. The illness that brought his career to a sad and premature end was sudden and unlooked for.
Although one of the most popular and effective preachers in Liverpool during a long period, he never relinquished secular business. On the contrary, he devoted himself to his secular calling with singular zeal, assiduity, and judgement. It was one calling for rare qualities.
He had great preaching gifts – a lucid style, a penetrating and sensitive voice, a natural aptitude for popular reform and incapability of being dull, considerable effectiveness in illustration, and a happy though restrained fecundity in anecdote.
He really was a really great citizen, pure, earnest, philanthropic, full of the faith that only Christianity could cure the ills of the work, and full of good works whose sole object was that Christianity might have free course and continually win victories and forever hold its own."
On the monument above his tomb were written the words "They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3)