James McKinney was born in Cookstown, County Tyrone, Ireland, November 16, 1759. He entered the University of Glasgow, Scotland, from which he graduated in 1778. He stayed a few years after graduation to study both theology and medicine. In 1781, McKinney returned to Ireland. He was licensed by the Reformed Presbytery on May 18, 1783, at which time he swore an acquiescence to the perpetual obligation of the Covenants, National and Solemn League. After several months, he was ordained to the ministry at Kirkhills, from which he began to preach to the several covenanting societies around North Antrim. In 1784, he married Mary Mitchell, with whom he eight children. In December, 1792, McKinney, together with William Stavely, William Gamble and William Gibson, re-established a separate jurisdiction of the Reformed Presbytery in Ireland. Shortly thereafter, in 1793, due to his preaching, he was forced to flee Ireland and emigrate to America. From the time of his arrival, in 1793, until the arrival of William Gibson, in 1797, McKinney traveled the Eastern portion of America meeting with and organizing Covenanter congregations. In 1797, he also welcomed the arrival of his wife and children from Ireland. At that time, McKinney accepted a call to the Duanesburgh and Galway congregation, in New York. In the spring of 1798, he and Mr. Gibson met in Philadelphia where they re-erected the Reformed Presbytery in America. He was involved in the earliest meetings of the Presbytery, working tirelessly on behalf of the Covenanter cause. His death occurred in Rocky Creek, Chester District, South Carolina, on September 16, 1802. Although remembered as a preacher “whose grandeur of conception and impressiveness of delivery” were seldom encountered, these sermons, reprinted several times during the early days of the Covenanter church, comprise his only extant writing.